Eco-Friendly Carpeting and Floor Coverings

Carpet is cozy and soft, but sometimes it smells awful. While other scents of something new can be satisfying – like new car smells, wet paint smells, and new-mown grass smells; new carpet smells is not something you usually anticipate. And when it comes to new carpets, that strong smell can spell trouble.

What’s with smelly carpets?

You’re probably looking for a new carpet because you want a softer treatment for your hard and cold floor. Unfortunately, many carpets tend to be hard on the environment and indoor air quality, as it releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic chemicals that causes the awful new carpet smell. When you are constantly exposed to VOCs, you may experience a wide range of symptoms that include headache, dizziness, uncomfortable breathing, nausea, nose and throat discomfort, and allergic skin reactions.

By choosing low-VOC and eco-friendly carpets, you can create a healthier living environment for your home while enjoying the comfort of your carpet.

How to choose eco-friendly carpets

When choosing an eco-friendly carpeting and floor covering, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

1. Check the label

Good carpets have been tested and approved by the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Indoor Air Quality testing program. Look for carpets with an icon that has “CRI” inside a small green house to verify that the product has been tested and passed CRI program’s standards for low emissions. These carpets have lower VOCs, thus producing less or no pungent odor.

2. Consider the paddings

Sometimes the most harmful elements in a carpet is found in the padding or backing. Carpets with lightweight backing are great because they won’t need additional padding that’s often made of plastic. There are also padding options that are made from recycled materials. When buying carpet backing or pads (or carpets with paddings), look for those made of natural materials like untreated wool, camel hair felt or non-synthetic latex. Avoid pads and backings made of styrene butadiene rubber; a better alternative for this is felt padding. You may even opt for carpets that need no padding at all.

3. Use non-harmful adhesives

If installing your carpet requires gluing it down, make sure you use low-emitting, non-solvent adhesives. You may opt for using water-based, low-VOC glues.

4. Opt for carpet take-back offers

For an eco-friendly purchase, choose sellers that offer carpet-take back programs. Companies like these reclaim commercial and residential carpeting and find ways on how to reuse it, whether the carpet is biodegradable or recyclable. This means your used carpet can be recycled and used to create a new carpet, or down-cycle it to make another type of product.

Types of eco-friendly carpeting

Eco-friendly carpeting comes in all varieties. The most environmentally friendly options include carpets made from natural and renewable fibers, since they are biodegradable. But even synthetic carpets can be eco-friendly, especially if they are recycled.

Here are the common types of floor coverings that are healthy for the environment:

1. Wool carpets

Eco-Friendly Carpeting and Floor Coverings

Wool carpet is the most natural fiber flooring used for both carpets and rugs. People love it’s soft, cushiony and luxurious feel. It’s a premium flooring material and is often expensive than their synthetic counterparts.

Wool is a strong and durable material with a natural coating that makes it resistant to stains, piling and fire. Wool is also a good insulator as its fiber traps up air, making it good to use as soundproofing material and providing warmth during cold seasons.

Though its natural coating can cause small amounts of water to bead up on its surface, wool should not be immersed in water as it may cause formation of molds and mildew. It must be placed in a dry area. Wool carpets blended with hemp fibers are mostly the types resistant to growth of molds and mildew.

2. Jute carpet

Jute carpet

Jute is one of the most inexpensive natural fiber carpet material available. It’s made from a plant that grows naturally in the subtropical regions of Asia. Though it’s made of inexpensive materials, a jute carpet can provide softness and comfort, making your feet enjoy its subtle and gentle weaves.  It’s available in a wide range of colors and patterns since it’s easy to dye, and you can always find a jute carpet that will suit your interior décor. It’s often made into ropes, rugs or carpet backing materials.

Jute doesn’t bring a synthetic smell, but it can suffer from wear and tear easily because of its softness. Because of this, it is best placed in low-traffic areas like bedrooms.

3. Sisal carpet

Like jute, sisal is made from natural plant fibers, easy to dye, and are often transformed into ropes, rugs and carpets. But unlike jute, it’s soft yet highly durable, this is why it can be made into furniture pieces like chairs and tables, too. A sisal carpet can stand up to high-traffic areas without being uncomfortable and coarse under the foot.

Jute carpets are available in a variety of colors and patterns, making it a versatile flooring decoration. Since it can be dyed, it can also be stained and treated to make it resistant to spills and dirt. However, keep it away from moisture since this can damage the fibers. It’s relatively expensive, costing more than coir and jute, but less than wool.

4. Seagrass carpet

Seagrass carpets are made of natural plant fibers, from plants that are grown underwater. They are planted similar to rice in paddy fields with seawater. Seagrass carpets are known for having a beautiful texture and durability. It is smooth to the touch, reed-like and resistant to stains, dirt and discoloration. The tough fibers of seagrass are nearly impermeable, so it can’t be dyed unless colored by the manufacturer. Usually it’s available in its natural hues.

To care for your seagrass carpet, don’t leave it in wet and moisture environments, since it can be prone to mold and mildew growth. Wipe up any spills immediately and don’t place it in your wet kitchens or bathrooms.

Since the fibers of the seagrass are smooth, think twice about installing it on your stairs. If you want to, stairs must be laid with grain facing parallel to the step treads.

5. Coir carpet

Coir, or coconut fibers, is an inexpensive natural material manufactured from coconut husks. It has a coarse, naturally rustic look that’s perfect for cottage and log cabin styles. Coir is often made into sacks, doormats, brushes and mattresses. As a carpet, it can be woven into simple to sophisticated patters like herringbone, diamonds and basket weave.

Because of its abrasive texture, it’s unsuitable for areas where you want a soft and comfy floor like in bedrooms or children’s rooms. But it’s a perfect material for high-traffic areas like living rooms, dining rooms and hallways. It’s susceptible to staining and needs to be kept dry because of the loose weave of its fibers.

6. Recycled materials

Recycled carpets are also your next best eco-friendly option if you think natural fibers is not good for your home. Rather than making carpet from new synthetic materials, recycled carpets are made from pre- and post-consumer plastics like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles or industrial scraps. Brands like Permalon and Resistron sells PET carpets made of 100% recycled plastic beverage bottles. When it wears out, the carpets can be down-cycled into insulation or furniture stuffing.